Barbarian AE: stylistic similarities with sceatta's

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Roerbakmix, Oct 20, 2021.

  1. Roerbakmix

    Roerbakmix Well-Known Member

    This may be far fetched, as I know little to nothing about Barbarian imitations. However, when I saw this AE offered, I was captivated by the portrait. I bought it for the mere sum of €11 including shipping, and yesterday it arrived:
    Barbarian imitation AE 16. Obv: portrait to right, legend "IIIIIIIIIIIIII" (might have missed an I here). Rev: two figures standing around a globe, legend "IIIIIIII"; IVI in exergue. 2.31 g, 16.0 mm. Some corrosion on obverse, mainly reverse. Faint scratches beneath patina.

    The obverse caught my eye. It's strikingly similar to e.g. the PADA trymsa's (minted around 665-675 in current England):
    CNG triton XXIII lot 1184 (not my coin)

    or the CRIPSUS type:
    CNG triton XXIII lot 1268 (not mine)

    Note the dotted line marking the helmet, and the dotted collar. These thrymsa's are not very abstract: the Barbarian coin appears a bit more abstracted than the later Anglo-Saxon coins. Later on, in the primary phase (c. 680-710 AD), sceatta's became a bit more abstract, e.g. this Series A sceatta:
    CNG E464 lot 285 (not mine)
    (my collection)

    Note the more abstract collar (dotted line between two lines).

    or this more abstract (left facing) continental sceatta (series D bmc 2c):
    (my collection). Note the dotted collar and helmet.

    The same for the series C sceatta from the secondary phase (c. 710-750):
    (my collection). Again, note the dotted collar. The neck has been replaced by dotted lines as well.

    Anyway. It may be totally farfetched, but the similarities in design were interesting. I would kindly ask members such as @Tejas, @Al Kowsky, @seth77 (who are way more knowledgeable on LRB than I am), and @Nap @John Conduitt (the only two other collectors of sceatta's) to say that for sceatta's everything is possible and nothing is provable :)
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  3. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    I think that to begin a search for an answer to your questions, we'd have to ask for how long did these AEs from the 4th century circulate in Britain once the access to new Imperial coinage had been all but cut off after 410 (and the 5th century new coinage was meager as well in the West). I know of 4th century siliquae that were introduced (or kept) in circulation clipped for instance. In other places the imitations of some AE late Roman types from the 4th century became a regular coinage in the 5th century -- the maiorinae with military busts of the 380s in Cherson or the maiorinae of Magnus Maximus in pre-Visigothic Barcino etc.

    Then there is the question of the type copied -- I see a Crispus legend on one specimen, probably 'inspired' by this type:


    or maybe this (or similar) from London:


    But these are coins from 318-320, could they have survived long enough to inspire a late 7th century precious metal coinage? I think it would have been more likely if the trymsa were copied from late Roman gold, but I don't know very much about the gold issues of the period and I don't think I have ever seen a Crispus gold issue with a helmeted bust, but have seen a gold radiate of Constantine.
  4. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    Roerbakmix, I believe your interesting barbarian bronze coin is earlier than you think. It appears to me to be a barbarian copy of a late Constantinian AE3 issue similar to this coin posted by Tehas (Dirk) recently.

    Screenshot 2021-10-19 at 22.52.21.png
  5. John Anthony

    John Anthony Ultracrepidarian Supporter Dealer

    The barbarous coin imitates the VICTORIAE LAETAE PRINC PERP types. Two Victories holding shield with vota inscription over altar. They are from the time of the Constantinian Dynasty. These types are probably the most common among barbarous issues of the 4th century.

  6. John Anthony

    John Anthony Ultracrepidarian Supporter Dealer

  7. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    Constantine I VLPP barb (2020_11_18 03_38_31 UTC).JPG
    This coin also has the dotted lines for the crest of the helmet
  8. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    I don't think that these bronze imitations circulated in the 5th, 6th or 7th centuries. I think they were produced in the 4th century and only circulated at that time.

    However, it is also not necessary for these coins to have actually circulated in order to inspire much later die engravers. Thrymsas and Sceattas and indeed much later Pennies of the 10th and 11th century were often inspired by Roman coins.

    The coin below (not my coin) was minted for King Aethelred in the 10th century, but the design of the bust was clearly inspired by a Probus Antoninian with helmet, radiate crown and shield.
    Screenshot 2021-10-20 at 18.01.04.png

    Roman coins were found in hoards or individually and copied by Anglo-Saxon mints.
  9. John Conduitt

    John Conduitt Well-Known Member

    Yes, it looks like a continental imitation from the mid-300s, when there a lot of Constantinian imitations in Britain too.

    I’m pretty sure bronzes were not used in Britain as late as 410, or even before the Romans left. The hoard evidence from 388-410 is of silver siliquae (and a lot of them). Hoxne, for example, was deposited after 407 and contained 14,865 coins - 569 gold, 14,272 silver and 24 bronze. I think the silver was used a while after that, but not the bronze.

    But I also don’t think the first Anglo-Saxon coins were descended from British designs. Coins had probably been replaced by silver ingots by the 500s, so there wasn’t any continuity. Vanimundus, one of the earliest named English moneyers in the 650s, took his name from copying Merovingian coinage. Thrymsas, the first Anglo-Saxon coins, were gold, and are supposed to have copied continental gold issues.

    Presumably, with their Christian imagery, these were based on later designs than the Constantinian bronzes. But the crested helmets and ‘Crispus’ legend on the English coins suggest either the bronze was still to be found somewhere or it inspired continental imitations all the way up to the 600s. Merovingian tremisses don’t have crested helmets, they have diadems. So somehow, indirectly, the bronzes may have been one of several inspirations for English sceattas.
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2021
    Pellinore likes this.
  10. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist Supporter

    one observation on this point - I was in Iceland over the summer, and the museum in Reykjavik had some 3rd century coins which had been found on the island during the settlement period (8th century - see this post). While not proof of circulation, it certainly indicates these coins stayed in people’s possession for centuries after they were minted.

    Here’s my imitation:
    Early Medieval - Germanic Imitation
    Perhaps Slovakia? (4th Century)
    Two Victories type AE Centenionalis, 18.74 mm x 2.40 grams
    Obv.: OISIIIII’INISIS, laureate bust right with helmet
    Rev.: INNINININNI, two victories with shield and altar, ZXXX in exergue
    Ref.: cf. de Wit 14-16
  11. Roerbakmix

    Roerbakmix Well-Known Member

    Thanks all for the interesting replies. I realize my theory regarding this coin was far-fetched, but it's rather clear that some early-medieval coins were inspired by Roman coins.
    John Conduitt likes this.
  12. dltsrq

    dltsrq Grumpy Old Man

    Consider the familiar "porcupine" sceatta which, in a stylized fashion, preserves the crested helmet and banner of the Roman prototype.

    765537.jpg 839277.jpg
  13. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    that's really neat, I never put that together! Almost like for a model they had a tiny minim struck with regular dies.
  14. John Anthony

    John Anthony Ultracrepidarian Supporter Dealer

    This reminds me of Celtic abstractions, i.e. the geometric types of the Durotriges, etc.
  15. John Anthony

    John Anthony Ultracrepidarian Supporter Dealer

    I always keep my eyes open for "barbarous" issues that have some distinctive style to them. Here's my version of the OP type...

    VLPP Barb 6.jpg

    This is clearly irrefutable evidence that aliens visited our ancient forebears. Remember the Gungans from Star wars?


    What we have on the reverse of this coin is obviously two Gungans standing on either side of a teleporter.
  16. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    This brings me back to this specimen:


    Which combines the typical radiate barbarous of the late 3rd century with what appears to be a medieval pelleted cross. The most likely explanation -- that it is a contemporary copy of a Claudius Gothicus commemorative is compelling, but seeing the actual coin one might understand why collectors and numismatists in the earlier 20th century thought them to be Merovingian rather than contemporary 3rd century imitations.
    FitzNigel and Bing like this.
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